The honor we seek

In 1998, psychiatrist and amateur historian Thomas Lowry was digging through the National Archives and found a pardon of a Civil War deserter signed by Abraham Lincoln, April 14, 1865, the day he was assassinated. It was an interesting footnote to the compassion and generosity of the greatest president the United States ever produced. His final act was an act of compassion. The National Archives gave the pardon a prominent place in its collection. The find was celebrated as a significant find.   

Except it wasn’t. Yes, Abraham Lincoln pardoned Union soldier Patrick Murphy. Yes, the pardon letter was genuine. Everything about the pardon was true. Except the date. The date, April 14, 1865, was doctored. Archivist Thomas Plante noticed the “5” looked wrong and took his concerns to the NA. After a thorough investigation, National Archives officials proved the date on the pardon had been changed from April 14, 1864 to April 14, 1865. Someone had taken a pen and written over the four with a five. Lincoln last act was not pardoning Patrick Murphy, he did that a year before his death.   

When the National Archives confronted Lowry, he confessed to altering the document.  

We tend to think that we are immune to a desire to receive honor and gain fame. We think stars who are addict to acclaim are an embarrassment. We come to a season that is loaded with award shows – Golden Globes, Academy Awards, Grammys, etc – and we shake our heads at the desire to be adored.

But it is not just the star or silly people on reality TV that want to be recognized. Deep within us, there is a desire to be known and respected. And we had better be careful what we do with that.

 Jesus does not tell us to stop trying to be recognized. Instead, He says practice the faith for an audience of One. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus does not condemn the desire to be noticed. He tells us to take that desire and turn it upward. Give in private and God will notice. Pray in private and God will notice. Fast in private and God will notice. Quit trying to perform righteousness in public, to be noticed by people. 

Not only will we avoid compromises, but we will gain rewards. Jesus promises rewards: Matthew 6:4, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6, “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:18, “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” The repetition should not be missed. God rewards those who seek His applause rather than the applause of this world.


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